The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is many things. A drinker’s paradise, an adventurous eater’s heaven, and a vegan’s worst nightmare. I know, it’s blasphemy to not be completely head-over-heels in love with the yearly foodfest that draws so many visitors to The World Showcase Promenade, so hate me if you must. I have to admit that up until this year, the Food & Wine Festival was probably my least favorite time of the year at Walt Disney World. Why, you ask? It boiled down to pure jealousy. Hearing everyone rave about all of the options they were exploring from different countries, spooning edible culture into their mouths as I sat chomping on a plain pretzel just seemed unfair. That is, of course, until this year.
Now, I can’t claim to have singlehandedly strong-armed Epcot into having vegan options at the International Food & Wine Festival. However, I also can’t deny sending numerous e-mails, and making a few (ok, a lot of) “suggestions” regarding the lack of vegan options available around the ‘Showcase. And as Disney magic would have it, the fine folks at F&W dreamed up Terra, a brand new marketplace for 2012 in which all of the food options, yes, I said all of the food options, are vegan!
The marketplace itself is presented by Gardein, a brand of mock meats with which I am quite well acquainted. Gardein is a favorite among vegans for meat alternatives, and offers meatless meatballs, chick’n strips, and barbecue riblets just to name a few. The Terra menu features two items: Trick’n Chick’n Curry and Chili Colorado, each priced at $3.75. Each item is paired with a wine option, but please be forewarned: neither of the wines offered, the Paul Dolan Sauvignon Blanc nor the Paul Dolan Pinot Noir is vegan. The Honest Kids Super Fruit Punch and Silk brand Berry Smoothie, however, are totally vegan so you can get your G-rated drink on!
The Trick’n Chick’n Curry is a vegan version of a chicken cutlet, covered in a mild-with-a-kick red curry sauce served over basmati rice. The texture is hearty, and the taste of the curry sauce complimented the grilled cutlet, which has a mild taste reminiscent of actual chicken. The rice is a nice option to go along with this dish to be used as a sauce vessel. This option left me wishing for this as a mainstay at any Walt Disney World restaurant, I highly recommend trying this!
The winner from this booth, though, is The Chili Colorado! The only downside is that it is served with house-made chips, instead of the aforementioned basmati rice. I found the chips to be greasy, too salty, and an underwhelming pairing for such a good main dish. The chili itself is topped with a delightful, but very sparse helping of cashew cheese, and has the mouth feel of beef with an excellent taste. I managed to isolate a small helping of the cashew cheese and try it on its own, it was so, so delicious and rivals nut-based cheeses that I’ve tried in some really amazing raw food restaurants. If you only have room for one vegan dish, go with this one. Despite the chips, it is unique and a great example of vegan food done right.
If you’re looking for a drink to go along with these fine options, opt for the Honest Kids Juice over the Silk Berry Smoothie. Unfortunately, the “smoothie” part of the name is slightly misleading, as the drink’s consistency is more milk-like, less smoothie-like. It does kind of taste like liquid berry yogurt, so if that’s your thing, by all means go for it! You can also go for it on the cheap at home, as you can find this in your grocery aisle near the soy milk.
Finally, of course, we can’t forget about dessert! I was thrilled to learn this booth would feature a vegan dessert option other than Tofutti or Rice Dream Ice Cream. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the vegan ice cream options served throughout the parks, and have a very close relationship with both of them, but I was excited to see something unique for the event. The dessert option is a Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Coconut Foam. The coconut foam taste overwhelms the dessert with an overly sweet coconut flavor. The chocolate cake, on the other hand, had a very mild taste. The winner on the plate was the passion fruit sorbet which had a light but tangy taste, and was refreshing on a really hot day. I would prefer the dessert sans coconut foam, but overall it was a nice dessert option.
There we have it! Terra in a lot more than a (cashew) nutshell. I am still in shock that Walt Disney World has embraced vegan dining in this way, and decided to offer this options to Guests this year. Hopefully, this means that the message is getting out and there will someday be vegan options as far as the eye can see at WDW dining locations. Finally, a (portion of the) festival for the rest of us!